Anyone who has seen the first season of Showtime’s “The Tudors” knows a couple of things: Henry the VIII really, really enjoyed his buxom courtiers, and Thomas More did not come to a good end. The bastion of the Catholic church and moral compass of right and wrong, once a great power and friend to the throne chose to bow his head to the executioner’s blade rather than betray his religious convictions.
Today, some clergy are urging their own politicians to do the same.
Nationally, political and judicial participation in the Red Mass, a sort of annual homecoming pep rally of the Catholic Church demanding that those who control government remain true to their religious faith, has caused a fair amount of discomfort for the rest of the country, who prefer that at least the semblance of a separation of church and state remain intact. This year, six out of nine Supreme Court justices participated in the event, where they were urged “to be open to the spirit of God, beg for his blessings and ‘strive to be instruments of a new evangelization,’” according to Politico.
The annual Red Mass in Washington, D.C. is a nearly 60 year old tradition. But there are other Red Masses across the country, where Catholic leaders speak directly to their followers — especially those who hold office — and remind them to do the work of the Catholic church. However the focus is not so much the “care for the poor, feed the hungry, foster justice and equality” portion of the Bible. Instead, especially in election years, it has evolved into a reaffirmation of the most important tenets of the church: defining marriage as between one man and one woman, ensuring sex happens only in a manner that leaves the woman “open” to receiving a child if God wills it, and the sacred protection of life from the moment of conception, above all other factors.
In Chicago, Cardinal Francis George sermonized that allowing same sex couples the option of legal marriage, continuing to allow a woman’s right to decide if she chooses to be pregnant or give birth, and expanding access to effective low or no cost contraception was the greatest loss of civil rights since segregation was in place. “Scandalously, our legal system no longer protects significant minorities: unborn children, Catholics and their institutions who would like to continue to enjoy the freedom we used to take for granted; those who continue to hold what the common sense of the human race has always held: marriage is based on the sexual union of a man and woman, an opinion we’ve now been told is no longer that of the majority and therefore need not be respected or protected in law.”
With weeks to go prior to the election, that the Catholic church continues to urge congregants to vote for conservative social values and the politicians that hold them has become a regular event. Not quite so everyday, though, is one St. Louis bishop’s call to politicians to remember and emulate Thomas More in their daily lives. Bishop Thomas Paprocki who worked under Cardinal Francis George and acted as a liaison for health and hospital affairs, had already made headlines for calling the Democratic Party “intrinsically evil.” At Red Mass he avoided party designations all together, and instead spoke to the federal lawmakers in attendance — including Sen. Roy Blout and Rep. Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin — to be more like More.”
Via St. Louis Today:
Bishop Thomas Paprocki, preaching at the annual Red Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, told the lawmakers in a crowd of lawyers and judges that More, in his day, was roughly the equivalent to White House chief of staff, secretary of state and chief justice of the Supreme Court — all at once.
But More sacrificed his wealth and career on his religious conviction. He refused to accept King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. More sided with Rome on that issue.
It was More who famously said before his beheading: “The King’s good servant, but God’s first.”
“Thomas More summarizes the call of Christian discipleship and the proper perspective we must all bring to our daily work,” Paprocki told the crowd.
Was Paprocki really advocating martyrdom to protect so called religious freedom? At the very least, it was a general call for civil disobedience to protect the Catholic faith, a subject that rabid anti-choice and ultra religious right groups have been echoing through activities such as ActsFive29, a coalition of Priests for Life and Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust among others. That the “More” lesson came up in a mass that had Congressman Akin, known for his participation in the past with anti-choice “civil disobedience” activities, may not have been a coincidence, either.
The 2010 election was riddled with the unfortunate phrase “second amendment remedies,” an oblique reference that if the votes didn’t turn out in their favor that perhaps Tea Party groups should consider armed revolution instead. Is the call to “be like More” this election cycle’s call to reject any political results that aren’t in their favor?